Justice has been served in Holland where six young soccer players have been convicted of manslaughter for their part in kicking a linesman to death.
Richard Nieuwenhuizen, 41, died last November following a beating he had taken during after a U-17 match between Buitenboys and Nieuw Sloten. The match was played in Almere, a city just east of Amsterdam, and ended in a 2-2 draw after Nieuw Sloten came back from being down 2-0.
Following the match the players shook hands with the three volunteer officials, before Mr. Nieuwenhuizen was knocked to the ground by several members of the Nieuw-Sloten team. Nieuwenhuizen was punched and kicked in the head before parents intervened. Nieuwenhuizen got up but was knocked back to the ground a second time. All of this happened in front of Nieuwenhuizen’s 15 year old son Mykel, who was playing in the match for Buitenboys.
Following the beating Nieuwenhuizen was able to stand up and stated that he did not want to call the police. He returned home for a brief spell but collapsed later that afternoon as he was watching another youth team game. He was transported to the hospital where he died of repeated blows to the head and neck.
Charges were brought against six Nieuw-Sloten players and one father of a player. At the ensuing criminal trial the prosecutor informed the judge that the defendants should be considered jointly guilty of manslaughter, regardless of who physically assaulted Nieuwenhuizen. The prosecutor also argued that given the defendants’ actions, there was no question the group deliberately wanted to kill Nieuwenhuizen and they knew there was a chance he would die.
All six youths were found guilty of manslaughter and five were handed two year sentences in youth detention centers while the other was given a one year sentence. The father was also convicted and given six years in prison.
News of Nieuwenhuizen’s death and the resulting convictions accentuates the increasing need for soccer governing bodies, from FIFA to local leagues, to enact regulations that provide greater protection for match referrees. It was only six weeks ago that a referee named Ricardo Portillo was killed after being punched by a 17 year old player during a match in Salt Lake City.